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HomeCar CultureWhat I Learned from Buying a Modern Collector Car, Part 2

What I Learned from Buying a Modern Collector Car, Part 2

Part 2: Making the Purchase

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In the previous installment of this series, I told you about the various things I wish I had known when I was shopping for a 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt. Get caught up by reading Part 1 here.

If you’re like me, daydreaming about something you want is simple and linear. You envision your fantasy car and you jump forward to the blissful experience of opening it up on the highway and zooming toward the horizon at sunset with your significant other. There’s no room in the dreamworld for setbacks or education, but real life is full of both. I sure learned a lot of humbling lessons when I bought a 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt. In my last installment, I told you all of the things I should’ve done differently leading up to getting it. Now I’ll share my biggest takeaways from the purchase process. 

Dealers Aren’t the Only Option 

Soon after determining the V8-powered Ford and Mercury vehicles I could turn into a reality, I came across a promising lead on a 2008 Mustang Bullitt. It was in Phoenix and had been in Arizona its entire life, so I didn’t have to worry about its underside being eaten up by New England winters. It was also Dark Highland Green, which to me was the only color to get it in because Steve McQueen didn’t drive a black Mustang in “Bullitt.” The CARFAX report was clean. And to top it all off, it only had 25,000 miles on it. In an attempt to stay rational and level-headed, I brought my pal Brad, a skilled mechanic who had spent decades working in a body shop, along with me to put an extra pair of eyes on – and under – the car. 

The Bullitt we looked at passed our tests, although it wasn’t perfect (I’ll cover that part later). In fact, it did so well that I ended up signing the paperwork for it and driving it home a few days later. Now that I have some distance from it, I realize I should’ve looked at alternative options. I was so taken by the Bullitt I test-drove that I jumped on it thinking I would be a fool to pass it up. I left myself no options and gave myself no basis for comparison or negotiation.

Dealers are a convenient choice because if you need them to be, they can be one-stop shops – from purchasing and financing to servicing and trading in. But they aren’t the only game in town. There are plenty of private sellers on model-specific forums and on sites such as ClassicCars.com. Many of them have meticulously cared for the vehicles they’re selling and will be happy to provide all the documentation for the work they’ve had done on them.

They also have a different mentality from dealership sales representatives. Of course, private sellers and salespeople want to maximize the amount of money they get, but they don’t face the same pressures that factor into the sales process. A sales rep has to keep their job, make a commission, and answer to a sales manager. Someone trying to get rid of their C4 Corvette before they move is the sole decision-maker (unless they need to hit a certain number mandated by their spouse).  

It’s Not Personal. It’s Business. 

Growing up, I only remember my dad buying a car from a dealership once. He purchased a lot of vehicles, but they were typically from private sellers or auctions. Although I was excited about getting the Bullitt, I was not looking forward to going through a salesperson to make that happen. Part of my dread came from the idea that I had to say what they wanted to hear so that they would like me.

I learned as I dealt with the rep that I had it all wrong.

Sure, I wasn’t a jerk to the guy because he was just doing his job, but I also didn’t try to make him my best friend. We were engaged in a business transaction. He didn’t have to love me, he just had to accept the price and terms I proposed. That meant I didn’t require his permission for anything, as if he was my boss. All I had to do was present what I wanted and see if we could reach an agreement. The original upholstery for the driver-side door panel insert had been replaced with a poorly fitting plastic insert; the plastic replacement for the passenger side was still in its package in the trunk. I told the salesman I wanted a chunk of money knocked off the price since the door panels would need to be redone. To my surprise, he played ball. 

Sometimes Banks or Credit Unions Aren’t the Best Choice

Given that I was buying a 14-year-old car, I was not surprised when the dealership’s finance manager informed me that six or seven banks and credit unions had declined to provide me the funds for it despite the fact that I had great credit. She finally found a credit union in Colorado that was willing to take the plunge.

That’s when I remembered LightStream, a lender that some of my friends had used for their collector car purchases. They considered factors such as my credit and payment histories in determining whether they should loan me the money for the Bullitt. Not only did they not require the car’s title as collateral, but they also gave me a rate that was close to two percent lower than the quote I got from the Colorado credit union. Getting the money for the purchase price of the Bullitt only took a day or two. Handing the check over to the finance manager was a satisfying and amusing experience. When I told her the name of my lender, she said deadpan, “I’ve never heard of them.” 

Put Down as Much Money as Possible 

If it wasn’t clear before, I’ll repeat it: I should’ve thought this purchase out more before I made it. Perhaps then I would’ve banked up enough money to make a substantial down payment. Yes, that takes more time and discipline up front, but it can lessen the amount of stress you face in the future. I was already buying an old sports car; by financing nearly all of it, I was locking myself into paying interest on that lump sum for years to come. 

I had more lessons ahead of me once I drove the Bullitt home. I’ll tell you what those were in my next installment. 

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Derek Shiekhi
Derek Shiekhi
Derek Shiekhi is the Editor and Lead Writer at ClassicCars.com’s sister site AutoHunter.com. He was previously a freelance automotive writer who won numerous awards from the Texas Auto Writers Association for his coverage of events and vehicle reviews. He has been lucky enough to drive Lamborghinis on a track, go off-roading over sand dunes in a Land Rover Discovery, haul a BMW M Roadster with a Ford F-450 Limited, and perform several 55-mph jumps in the Ram 1500 TRX. These days, he’s learning a lot of interesting facts about the vintage and collector vehicles auctioned on Auto Hunter.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Having owned 120 vehicles…
    I am still learning. Still sometimes impulsive and I never stop shopping…
    Enjoying this story.
    Brian DeYoung

  2. I really enjoyed your story, It gave me some very important information that I will be able to use in the future. Im really looking forward to reading your next post

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